A final look at "The Call"

Arizona's football team was on the front page of ESPN's website for the first time in recent memory after its 23-17 win over the Utes. Unfortunately, it wasn't Jason Johnson's remarkable 416 yard passing game, or Andrae Thurman's 9 catch, 165 yard coming out party that were the cause of the national attention; it was the biting accusations from Utah coach Ron McBride about a conspiracy to cheat his team out of a "W."

With 38 seconds remaining in the game, Utah wide out Josh Lyman snagged a catch deep in the end zone as his momentum drove him out of bounds. Instant replay indicated that Lyman was able to drop his right knee down inside the end zone before his upper body hit out of bounds. I can understand McBride's frustration at the call, but I am entirely disgusted with him for using the national media as a forum to wage a personal vendetta. McBride called out, by name, head official Jim Fogltance for being a "U of A booster," and a "big U of A guy." The national media jumped all over the claim that a "Arizona official" called an Arizona game, and McBride misrepresented that Fogltance was responsible for the missed touchdown, when in fact it was line judge Mike Aaronian who made the call.

Fogltance, however, was responsible for the completion call four plays earlier in the game that was clearly a Utah fumble recovered by an Arizona player. The fumble would have sealed the game of the Cats, but the ever so biased Fogltance, who apparently bleeds cardinal and navy, called it a Utah completion and kept the Utes' drive alive.

The national media hyped that Utah was robbed by an Arizona booster when in fact Fogltance is not a booster, and has had no association with the University since he graduated from the UA some 30 years ago. McBride failed to recognize many factors before opening his mouth, and for this appears as a classless, poor sport.

First off, the Lyman play was not as easy a call as it appears on TV. Upon reviewing the play it is clear that the referee who was watching the back line was in position, but Lyman's sprawling catch left the ref with an obstructed view of the line. Lyman's back was to the line judge Mike Aaronian, and this left the ref with an entirely blocked view of the knee that came down in bounds. From Aaronian's perspective he could see Lyman's upper body land out of bounds, and had no way of seeing if his right knee hit inside, or outside of the end zone. Aaronian was left with a judgment call, and did the right thing: he called it as he saw it.

A good referee should never speculate as to whether a player had a part of his body in or out of bounds; they are to call it as they see it.

McBride did not acknowledge that calls always end up balancing out. Four plays before "the call" the Wildcats were equally robbed on a fumble after a catch that was ruled a completion. The fumble was a much easier call to make than the touchdown, but the refs just missed it. By watching on television the fans are given an opportunity to see replays from many angles and have the unique ability to lament to their heart's content about how the stinking refs threw away the game for their team, but referees in the NCAA are not allowed the privilege of instant replay, yet.

McBride fails to recognize that even if there was instant replay allowed in college football, his Utes still leave town losers, because surely coach Mackovic would have challenged the completion that was actually a fumble, and Arizona would have ran out the clock.

Finally, McBride refuses to admit that his team simply got outplayed. Arizona dominated in every aspect of the game. The only reason Utah hung around was because of careless ball handling by the Cats. Even if Utah was awarded the touchdown, there were still 38 seconds left in the game. Johnson, who had already thrown the ball for more than 400 yards, would have had more than enough time to get the ball downfield for a game-winning kick attempt. Utah had no handle on the Wildcats whatsoever, and like it or not, the team who is dominating in a game usually gets most of the calls. How many times in the NBA can the dominating team get away with calls when other teams cannot? The Lakers get away with more non-calls than any other team in sports, and it is because referees are sometimes put into a position where they have to make a questionable judgment call, and if they have to guess, they tend to error in favor of the team with the momentum. If Utah dominated the ball like the Wildcats did, I guarantee you the Lyman catch at the end of the game is a touchdown.

Referees have one of the most difficult jobs in all of sports, and I know it is cliché to say it, but they are human and everyone makes mistakes. I find it completely inappropriate to call out refs for their "miscalls." The refs enjoy what they do, not because the pay is great, or they necessarily enjoy the travel, but because they love the game just like every other fan. People who love their jobs take pride in doing the best they can, and if a referee does not do his or her job well, there are a million other refs waiting in the wings to fill positions. Many of the college football referees do it as a hobby for the love of the game and keep other "real jobs," and as frustrating as it can be when a ref blows a call, it is important for coaches to be classy and show respect for the people who make the great game possible. I am embarrassed that Ron McBride was ever a coach at the University of Arizona, and am sickened by his lack of professionalism.

I hope that coach "McWhine" apologizes to the referees and takes a couple of collegiate atheltic ethics courses taught by coach Olson or coach Mackovic next time he is in town.


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